(15) Arabia - Animals (cont.). Camels. Cattles. Asses. Mules. Dogs. Cats.
The Camel in Arabia
Below the horse in popular estimation and market value, but far above him in general utility so far as Arabia is concerned, comes that eminently Arab animal the camel. Of this there are many varieties: the best, swiftest, slimmest in form, and most docile to guidance, is the "hejeen," or dromedary, sometimes also called "delool," or "facile." It is almost exclusively employed for riding, whereas the "ibl," or ordinary camel, readily distinguished from the other by a coarser build, a slower pace, and a less tractable disposition, is a beast of burden, and indeed is employed for all purposes. This species is very commonly, too, kept and reared for the sake of its flesh and milk, precisely as horned cattle are elsewhere; in fact, boiled camels meat is the most ordinary article of animal food throughout the peninsula, - it is a flabby, tasteless dish, not unlike the poorest sort of beef; any flavour that it may possess is musky and disagreeable. The milk, on the contrary, is excellent, equal in quality and in sanitary properties to that of the she-ass, but neither butter nor cheese are made from it. The wool, which in the camels of Nejd and Oman is remarkably soft and fine, serves for making articles of dress, into which it is woven, sometimes alone, sometimes mixed with wool; it is much superior to sheeps wool in every respect. The ordinary colour of the animal in the northern Arab provinces is a reddish brown, but in Nejd and throughout the south, lighter tints, varying from grey to white, are more common; black is extremely rare, and highly esteemed. The least valuable breeds are those of the north and west, - that is, those of the Jowf, of Shomer, of the Hejaz, and of Yemen; in Nejd, which region, from the number of its herds, is sometimes called "Omm-el-Ibl, or "the Mother of Camels," the species improves; but all agree in assigning the palm to the dromedaries of Oman. In fine, all over Arabia, whether among the Bedouins or the villagers, camels are the principal staple of traffic, the favourite investment of wealth, and the ordinary standard of property.
Camel or dromedary, the Arabian animal has only one hump, which increases or diminished in size according to the general good or bad condition of the beast. On this hump the saddle-called, if a riding one, "ghabeet;" if one for baggage, "shedad"- is placed; a halter is the only rein employed, though even this is more commonly dispensed with by the Arabs, who simply direct the animal by a kick of the heel or a blow about the neck with the "mihjan," a small crooked stick carried in the riders hand. The average traveling pace, an amble, is between five and six miles an hour, and this a good dromedary will continue for fifteen hours out of the twenty-four during a week together. Six days in the summer, ten in the winter, form the longest period that the dromedary can continue his pace without a fresh supply of water; and hence an "ashavee" or "tenner" is the title given to the best of the kind. Two hundredweight is the average load of the Arab carrying camel.-
No animal puts its owner to less expense for it keep the thorns of the desert, dry grass, cactuses, euphorbias, nothing comes amiss to a camels appetite; a ball of paste weighing about a pound, and made of barley-meal and water, is given every evening when extra work has to be done.
The average duration of a camels life is thirty years, that of the dromedary somewhat less; the price of either varies from about 4 pounds to 80 pounds, according to quality, those of Oman commanding the best market. But although the camel, whether as an article of use or of sale, is far more important to Arabia than the horse, it is in intelligence and docility immeasurably inferior to the latter animal, never becoming attached to, or even, seemingly at least, acquainted with its owner; and never obeying except perforce and under protest.
Next to camels, sheep and goats form an important item of Arab wealth. The best sheep are the piebald and large tailed ones of Yemen; those of Nejd, too, are in great request on account of their flesh, which is excellent, though their wool is confessedly less fine in quality. Some districts of Oman produce a silky-haired breed not unlike that of Angorah. The least esteemed sheep are those of Hejaz and the north; but in compensation, the goats of these provinces are longer-haired and generally better than those of the south; they are black, with long drooping ears. Spring is the shearing season in Nejd, but the wool is seldom exported, being mostly bought up for local use. From the milk of these animals butter and a white insipid kind of cheese are made: both are articles of daily consumption in Arab households.
Cattle in Arabia
Cattle are reared throughout Arabia, but owing to the prevailing deficiency of deep and succulent pasturage their number is not so considerable as that of the camel. Cows and oxen, throughout Nejd, Oman, and Yemen, bear on their shoulders a hump analogous to the well-known one of the so-called "Brahminee" bull; the ordinary colour is dun; their legs are slender, the horns short, and the whole statute diminutive. The kine of the northern provinces are stouter and yield more milk; they have no hump. Buffaloes also are kept in the marshy districts that occur in Yemen and Oman. They differ in no respect from the Indian breed; but, unlike oxen, these animals cannot be reckoned in the ordinary list of Arab farm stock, as they exist only under exceptional circumstances, whereas a few kine may be found in almost every village, and the irrigation of the fields and gardens is mostly done by means of oxen.
Asses in Arabia
Like the horse, the ass attains its greatest excellence in Arabia, where it is more often employed for riding than for loads; indeed, in some provinces, especially in Hasa, it is the usual mount even of the wealthy. The best species is that reared in Hasa and eastern Nejd, where these animals are generally of the purest white in colour, and stand from eleven to thirteen hands high. In pace they scarcely yield to an average horse. They are often exported and sold at high prices in Egypt or at Constantinople, a single animal fetching from 40 pounds to 80 pounds. they are ridden in Arabia with side-saddles. Good asses are to be found also in the other districts of Nejd, in Yemen, even in the Hejaz; their ordinary colour is grey. The same animal runs wild in many of the open and mountainous regions of Arabia, and is hunted for the sake of its skin by the Bedouins; but the onager or zebra of Cutch is not met with in this peninsula.
Mules in Arabia
Mules and hinnies, common throughout Syria and Mesopotamia, are extremely rare in Arabia proper, where a prejudice exists against their use.
Dogs in Arabia
The Arab dog differs very little from a jackal in appearance as in habits; its muzzle is pointed, its colour sandy, and its long and somewhat bushy tail is curled over the back. When domesticated, the breed improves, approaching the European wolf-dog; these animals, by training, become very tolerable indoor and outdoor guardians, both of flocks and herds and of dwellings, and in this capacity, they are to be found everywhere, both in the towns and villages and in the open country, where they are not less useful to their masters than annoying to strangers. Another kind of dog, belonging to the greyhound species, and evidently of exotic origin, is often reared in Arabia; the swiftest and most enduring of this kind are from the province of Hasa. They are in great favour as harriers.
Cats in Arabia
Arab cats differ in no respect from their congeners in Europe except in being rather smaller. The house-mice too are absolutely the same; but the rat is more akin to the old black species of England, now nearly extinct.
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Arabia - Table of Contents
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